"Bad Santa 2"
Release Date: Nov. 23, 2016
Running Time: 92 minutes
Have we been too naughty or too nice to deserve Bad Santa 2? Delivered 16 years after the 2003 release of Bad Santa, this sequel offers more of the same rude and crude jokes that made its predecessor a late-night holiday staple. But its familiar shtick robs of it any shock value, and the insult humor aimed at the returning Tony Cox now takes on a nasty racist tone that was mostly absent in director Terry Zwigoff’s razor-sharp case study in misanthropic behavior. Cox’s criminal mastermind Marcus Skidmore is responsible for dragging Billy Bob Thornton’s boozy Willie Soke back into action. Marcus is working with Willie’s equally abrasive mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) to rob a charity of its Christmas donations. To help pull off the heist, Willie must go undercover as one of the charity’s Santa Clauses, a job that fills him with bile. An angry, resentful Billy Bob Thornton is always guaranteed to generate laughs, and he doesn’t disappoint. He’s as amusingly ill-tempered and offensive as usual. However, director Mark Waters and credited screenwriters Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross tried too hard to make Willie a sympathetic figure through his dysfunctional relationship with his verbally and psychologically abusive mother. Unfortunately, they screw up from the get-go by allowing Willie to punch his mother in the face when they are reunited for the first time in years. Domestic violence isn’t to be laughed at, especially in service of a visual gag that is designed to establish the tension and distrust that exists between mother and son. Otherwise, Bates is a foul-mouthed hoot as Bad Santa 2’s most morally bankrupt lawbreaker. She almost, but not quite, makes up for the absence of the dearly departed Bernie Mac and John Ritter, who both made significant contributions to Bad Santa. When it comes to humanizing Willie, Bad Santa 2 does a better job expanding upon his inexplicable sense of responsibility for Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), the little boy from Bad Santa who is now all grown up—at least physically, that is. Thurman is as slow and as dense as he was as a teenager, but Kelly sells us on Thurman’s odd but endearing deep affection for his surrogate father. Accordingly, Thurman’s amusing misadventures prove to be the perfect anecdote to Bad Santa 2’s darkly comic dealings. Less believable is how Willie, a disheveled alcoholic with no redeeming qualities, manages to seduce Diane (Christina Hendricks), the lonely wife of the charity’s crooked CEO. An obviously embrassed Hendricks is required to do nothing but have sexual encounters with Willie in dirty public places. Diane is supposed to serve as Willie’s mirror reflection—she, too, has been down and out—but Bad Santa 2 is content to treat Hendricks as Willie’s flesh-and-blood sex toy than to provide her with any opportunity to drive or impact the proceedings. Director Mark Waters clearly did not learn much from the way Lauren Graham’s Sue managed to both indulge Willie’s proclivities and serve as a positive influence on him during Bad Santa. This represents the biggest step backward that this sequel takes, and it’s an unfortunate one. Otherwise, like most belated sequels to a beloved comedy from a past decade, Bad Santa 2 is very much more of what came before. Just not done with the same (Christmas) spirit and goodwill.
Aired: Nov. 24, 2016
Web site: http://www.badsanta2.com